BOOK lovers will no longer be able to enjoy Saturday morning at Penola’s community library following a change to its opening hours.
Housed at Penola High School, the library had previously opened 37 hours a week from Tuesday to Saturday, but recently closed its doors on weekends due to limited funding, reducing the service to 34.5 hours.
Funded and staffed by the Department of Education, the library receives funding from Wattle Range Council for resource items, but council reportedly has no control over hours or staffing.
Ulrich Grey-Smith and his family are frequent visitors to the establishment and has voiced his concern about accessibility to the library.
“As a community library it should be available to the public for extended hours,” he said.
“It’s an asset to our community but if it’s not open on weekends, the majority of us will not be able to utilise it.
“After school is not an option for us, with sports and homework commitments taking up that time.
“As full time working parents, Saturday is the only time we can get them there and I believe we are not alone in that.”
With primary school aged children, even if he was not working full time, his children would still be unable to access the facility, which has been vital to their education and upbringing.
“Saturday is also the day that many elderly people feel most comfortable visiting and for some, we are aware that this is the only independent outing they have for the week,” he said.
“In an era when we are hearing more frequently about the problems of isolation and loneliness in communities and with mental health issues on the rise in rural areas, why close down one more communal space?
“Closing on Saturdays denies access for a great proportion of the library users.
“How can it be called a community library when the five hours after school on weekdays is all it is are prepared to be open for?”
Mr Grey-Smith was also quick to praise the library’s staff, believing the community loss is through no fault of their own.
“Public libraries are a precious resource and our children are being taught to value this kind of community space and connection,” he said.
“The staff at the small but vibrant Penola Community Library have been an important and joyful part of their early upbringing.
“We are grateful for the library staff and volunteers for their efforts and ideas, which make the library such a welcoming and engaging space.”
Often writing to council and the high school about the issue, Mr Grey-Smith is disappointed it was not put to the community before the call was made earlier this year.
“Council has a community library in Millicent which is much more accessible to the public,” he said.
“I am very disappointed in the entire process, to my knowledge we did not have a public consultation before it closing on a Saturday.
“Is it possible we need to move the library to a public space like the main street rather than the high school and make it a true community library solely operated by council?”
The school has since announced its opening hours are now open to public consideration, providing two possible options.
In a statement received by the high school, the library could possibly reopen on a Saturday, but this would mean it would not be open on a Tuesday.
It stated patrons are invited to come in to the library and submit their preferred option to the school by close of business on May 31.